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J Physiol Paris. 2003 Jan;97(1):77-86.

Steps during the development of the zebrafish locomotor network.

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McGill Centre for Research in Neuroscience, McGill University, 1650 Cedar Avenue, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3G 1A4.


This review summarizes recent data from our lab concerning the development of motor activities in the developing zebrafish. The zebrafish is a leading model for studies of vertebrate development because one can obtain a large number of transparent, externally and rapidly developing embryos with motor behaviors that are easy to assess (e.g. for mutagenic screens). The emergence of embryonic motility was studied behaviorally and at the cellular level. The embryonic behaviors appear sequentially and include an early, transient period of spontaneous, alternating tail coilings, followed by responses to touch, and swimming. Patch clamp recording in vivo revealed that an electrically coupled network of a subset of spinal neurons generates spontaneous tail coiling, whereas a chemical (glutamatergic and glycinergic) synaptic drive underlies touch responses and swimming and requires input from the hindbrain. Swimming becomes sustained in larvae once serotonergic neuromodulatory effects are integrated. We end with a brief overview of the genetic tools available for the study of the molecular determinants implicated in locomotor network development in the zebrafish. Combining genetic, behavioral and cellular experimental approaches will advance our understanding of the general principles of locomotor network assembly and function.

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